By Jennifer McLogan

AQUEBOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — When hugging isn’t allowed during the pandemic, what can you do?

A Long Island kindergartener and his teacher came up with an extraordinary way to connect.

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“We made a hugging machine … so now she can hug everyone in the world,” 5-year-old Avery Green said.

Avery and his parents, Cathie and Al, both health care workers, did something unexpected.

“I’ve been really isolated, not just because of the COVID, but because of the cancer,” kindergarten teacher Keri Stromski said.

She has stage four breast cancer, so she’s unable to be with her students in person on the North Fork in Aquebogue. She is teaching kindergarten remotely while going through chemo and radiation.

“It was hard because the parents, they all know, I’m very honest with my families, and they all had to say, ‘No, no, no, you can’t hug Mrs. Stromski,'” she said.

“We just wanted to keep Keri safe ’cause she’s sick … She kept saying that she missed hugging her babies, so we just wanted to make something so she would have a way,” Cathie Green said.

“We made it out of a shower curtain and we cut holes … and then you start hugging,” Avery said.

“So when Avery showed up with the hug machine…” Stromski said.

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The surprise brought smiles amid tears.

“A touching moment, a touching moment. Something so small, but it went a long way,” Al Green said.

“How does that feel, to hug your teacher?” CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan asked.

“Good,” Avery said.

“Yeah, one of the biggest things about being a kindergarten teacher is the hugs,” Stromski said.

“Mrs. Stromski has overcome every obstacle in her way, and she’s done it all for the students,” Aquebogue Elementary School Principal Bryan Miltenberg said.

Stromski is doing all she can to keep the magic alive. Her next plan is for a hug parade for all the children and their parents.

“Hug parade. She decided everyone can come and get hugging,” Avery said.

“Yes, well, I told them I would do a hug parade when I am a little bit better,” Stromski said.

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Embracing is bringing healing in Aquebogue.

Jennifer McLogan